7 Mar 2016

Countess: "On Wings of Defiance"

Anti-cultural assault of epic proportions
There are bands that, no matter what you do, just don't sit right with you. Then there are bands so obnoxiously awful that you have no idea why they've continued for so long or why, in fact, they even have fans. I may not be the biggest fan of The Beatles, but I can see why most find their easy-going style appealing. What I can't see is why anyone gives a hoot about Countess, a Dutch black metal band that has at the point of release of "On Wings of Defiance" steadily been releasing albums for almost twenty years.

The substantial body of work Countess has released over the years, both as a group and a one-man project, is an astounding one, warranting a dedicated group of followers among die hard metalheads. One might wonder how, when he has been involved in writing, playing and producing so many records, Orlok - Countess' sole member at this point - is even capable of producing such music so appalingly devoid of songwriting talent and craftsmanship. "On Wings of Defiance" does truly defy, but not in the sense you would think. I had to turn it off after two listen-throughs. That is simply all I could bear.

"Though confidently starting out with an ambitious eight minute epic, that misplaced confidence only raises more questions."

Orlok's generic, incessant barking style of vocals gets old really fast. Almost as fast as the odd Dire-Straits-gone-wrong guitar tone the musician produces while ceaselessly filing away at the ol' egg slicer. Countess' thirteenth album is truly bad luck. Though confidently starting out with an ambitious eight minute epic, that misplaced confidence only raises more questions. Does Orlok know anything about programming drums? Has he even played an instrument before? Is he fourteen years old? The songwriting is so strikingly entry-level and elementary that "On Wings of Defiance" suggests the answer for the last question is "yes".

Orlok's idea of a great album is apparently an hour long mess of completely unvaried songs with equally bland riffs, vocals and drums. Arbitrarily the Dutchman will throw in a Mediterranean-sounding melody to mix things up, but there's no rhyme or reason as to when or where these elements pop up. Countess' album from 2011 boils down to sub-standard Bathory-influenced black metal with the cheesiest of MIDI-keyboard sounds. Consistency is often an admirable trait, and persistence is one of the mainstays in metal that embraces the counter-culture movement that metal is and was to many. The impressive size of Countess' body of work since its creation in 1992 suggests at least that they are persistent. But if "On Wings of Defiance" is also an indication of the quality of the rest of their albums, I'd rather they were inconsistent. At this point the album feels like a watered down Scandinavian black metal band with the same riffs played ad nauseum.


Released in 2011 by Barbarian Wrath

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